Everyone loves a good story. How can you not? They are the very foundation of our conversations. They are the cornerstone of wildly popular mainstream chat shows such as the globally adored Graham Norton show. But telling them well is a whole other story. Telling a good tale is a skill that not everyone possesses – hence barely anybody walks away from the Red Chair unflipped. Still, there are certain things to be considered before embarking on an anecdote. Here are five useful tips for delivering one your audience will remember.
Read the Room
Three words: know your audience. It is not nice to start telling a story that doesn’t cater to your audience’s tastes, so don’t expect it to land very well. You have to consider the people to whom you’re storytelling, including their ages and their interests. In what context is your anecdote being told? Do you need to keep it professional, or can you afford to play with the boundaries a little? Before launching into your story and getting so deep into it that there’s no turning back, these are all factors to consider.
Set the Scene
Paint the audience a picture before you get stuck into the story. Engage their senses and set the scene to contextualise the story. Where does the story take place? What do the surroundings look like; how do they smell? What year are we in?
Keep it Reasonably Short and Engage the Audience
At a particular point in our lives, we have all endured a monologue-style anecdote that has gone on rather too long to be enjoyable. Keep your anecdote to no longer than 2 minutes – otherwise, people’s attention will start to wander and you’ll lose your audience’s interest.
Worried you’ll bore your listeners to tears? Involve them! Fire questions at them; take polls (“how many of you have ever seen this ridiculous trend…?”)!
Tell it with Confidence
If you don’t believe in the anecdote you’re telling, your audience won’t believe in it either, and you may lose them altogether. We can’t all be beacons of confidence, but try to deliver your story as confidently as you can.
Utilise your Vocal Skills
Nobody likes a monotone Michael. When telling anecdotes, add some zest by deploying a good range of tones, volumes and pitches to keep your story engaging. Impersonating someone? Try and mimic their accent if you can. This will take your anecdote from good to positively hilarious (provided that’s the tone you’re going for, of course).
Avoid a Big Buildup that Sets up Disappointment
If you know your anecdote has a slightly anticlimactic ending, don’t set your audience up for disappointment. Equally, avoid huge statements when introducing your anecdote, such as “Oh, I have the FUNNIEST story about that”, or anything to that effect. Let your audience be the judges of that. For even more tips, Akash Karia has compiled 23 to form her book, Ted Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best Ted Talks.
Armed with all these tips, you are quite possibly ready to face your peers and tell a punchy anecdote. Once you’ve received rave reviews for your anecdote, they’ll be pouring out of you in no time.